Killing A Riparian Forest – Our Last Urban Wilderness


May 7, 2014

This is a map from the Harris County Flood Control District describing the rare and native tree species that the county plans to cut down. The yellow lines represent the area in which the forest and banks of Buffalo Bayou  will be bulldozed — areas widening to as much as 100 feet from the water’s edge.

We have only until June 30, 2014, to tell the Army Corps of Engineers not to allow the bulldozing of one of the last urban wildernesses in the United States. Virtually all the native habitat will be lost. Here’s how to contact the Army Corps of Engineers.

We urge Houstonians to oppose the current plan. Join us to learn more at a public meeting of concerned citizens on May 22, 2014, at St. Stephen’s Pecore Community Hall, 1805 W. Alabama, beginning at 6:30 p.m.


A riparian forest is a buffer area along a river or stream. Riparian forests along with native understory and wetlands are critical to storm water management—absorbing runoff.  Riparian areas protect the quality and quantity of our water resources. They trap sediment and other pollutants from overland runoff before they have a chance to enter our streams and bayous. They also function to reduce the magnitude and velocity of floodwaters and help to maintain base flows in streams by slowly releasing floodwaters back into the stream channel. Riparian areas provide breeding and foraging habitat for wildlife and serve as corridors between critical habitat areas.

They sustain us and our connection with the wonder and beauty of nature.


17 thoughts on “Killing A Riparian Forest – Our Last Urban Wilderness”

  1. Rebecca Allen says:

    I was so grateful to read the article in the Houston Chronicle this morning 5.17.14 and learn of the planned meeting on 5.22.14. This plan must be stopped and Buffalo Bayou preserved for future generations.

  2. Al Salinas says:

    Why must a city try to destroy all the natural habitats where our urban wildlife exists? THEY WERE HERE FIRST! All that has been going on along Buffalo Bayou from downtown to Shepherd has already done a great disservice to our urban wildlife. I live 4 blocks south of the bayou and have noticed wildlife in our backyards that used to never wander away from the bayou. Just last night soon after I had settled down for my nightly slumber, my neighbor wakes me up to come help her with a snake that is trying to cross the street at West Gray across from Walgreens. I get there to find that it was a 4-5 foot rat snake that had been run over and it’s guts were spilling out of its rear end. No, it did not survive. The snake died by the time I walked over to help her. Rat snakes are very beneficial to our environment, yet all the habitat destruction continues without a single thought to our wildlife and their welfare. PLEASE do not let this continue along the bayou.
    This map also shows how the a River Oaks side of the bayou is not being destroyed. Why is that? Do the residents of River Oaks have more pull to keep the destruction off of their side of the bayou? How fair is that? JUST LEAVE THE BAYOU’S RIPARIAN AREA ALONE!!!

    1. Dear Al,

      Thanks for your very moving insight about wildlife and the tragic loss of habitat. However, please note that the entire south bank of Buffalo Bayou in this project is owned by the River Oaks Country Club and that forested side of the bayou is indeed being destroyed also. The “demonstration” project to remove riparian habitat, bulldozing the trees, vines, shrubs, and undergrowth that hold the bank together, affects both sides of the bayou.

      1. Al Salinas says:

        Ok. I stand corrected on the part of about the south side of the bayou, but is there no easement along the bayou that should be abided by. I supposedly own a 50×100 foot lot, but at the back of I am supposed to not have any permanent structures within 5 ft of the property line adjacent to my back door neighbor’s and the same for them. Shouldn’t this apply to properties adjacent to the bayou? Anyway, just my thoughts on the matter of habitat destruction.

  3. Katherine Byrum says:

    Is there a petition we can sign if we can’t make the public meeting??

    1. No petition but send comments to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Here is how to do that. Also contact your congressional representative, in particular John Culberson, who is on the appropriations committee. Congress controls the money!

    2. There is now a MoveOn petition that you can sign. It’s titled “Stop the Bulldozers on the Wild Banks of Buffalo Bayou in Houston’s Memorial Park.” It will be sent to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality before the June 30 deadline for comments on Harris County’s application for a permit to bulldoze the bayou.

  4. Richard says:

    Rivers naturally change course because of the flowing water, and covering ground in concrete reduces the amount of water that can be absorbed by the ground thereby exacerbating flow rates in the rivers. Therefore the banks of the bayou will continue to erode, over the years I’ve seen a lot. Options therefore are do nothing or do something; I believe do something is a better approach assuming it is better than the do nothing. What are the objectives? – Preserve acreage, preserve natural habitat, preserve business worth (property values, income etc. because this is a capitalist society and the bayou is in a city). One way to try and stop the erosion is to pile concrete blocks into one side of the bayou thereby trying to force the water away from “your” bank – a bad and selfish solution, which we can see being done already. Another solution is a planned process that improves the status for all AND that we can all see / they can prove is being followed. So… my questions are… 1) In link it says “re-establishing native vegetation”, to what extent – 100 percent, partially (how much?), and how do we hold them accountable, measure it, and get them to fix it if they fall short? 2) How will we know the process has worked, and if not what will they do about it and how do we know they’ll fix it?

    1. Harris County has proposed bulldozing the wilderness forest along Buffalo Bayou even where there is no erosion. No planting can replace a riparian forest. The bayou and its natural ecosystem will die. Habitat for thousands of wild creatures will be lost. The public’s last remaining ties to a unique urban and distinctly southern landscape experience will disappear. There are less destructive methods of dealing with erosion. We support strengthening the existing riparian forest and allowing it to function naturally. Let’s “demonstrate” that instead. Many of us also object to sacrificing our last urban wilderness, open to all, in order to repair erosion on private property. The taxpayers are paying two-thirds of the cost of this $6 million project, while nearly two-thirds of the land in the project area is privately owned.

      1. Richard says:

        I’d like to see your proposal on strengthening the existing riparian forest and demonstration on how it can help prevent erosion.
        Here’s my one and only finding on replanting a riparian forest with recommendations on how to improve survival rates I suspect there are other studies that show better and worse survival rates.
        I do agree that it seems fair that if private property owners own x% of the bayou bank, they should pay the same x% of the costs.

        1. Thanks. We’ll pass that study along. We are working on a proposal. But again, this Harris County plan strips riparian forest away from areas where there is no significant erosion.

  5. Gwen says:

    Is there a place online where Thursday’s meeting’s minutes will be posted, for those who cannot make it in person?

    1. Well, good idea. Thanks. We’ll try to do that here.

  6. Mariela says:

    Just wondering what the Memorial Park Conservancy’s role was during all the studies? And what is their current stand on this issue?
    With all their concern about reforestation and invasive removal you would think that they would be against any harm coming to the natural riparian forest surrounding the Bayou.
    I plan to be at the meeting on Thursday.
    Thanks for the links Richard!

    1. As difficult as it is to understand, Memorial Park Conservancy as well as the Bayou Preservation Association officially support this plan to bulldoze riparian forest in Memorial Park, which has already lost so many trees. Hundreds of trees will cut down in this project, not just along the bayou but also to create access for the bulldozers and heavy equipment to the bayou.

      1. Mariela says:

        Very disappointed with the MPC and BPA.

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